Confessions of an English Teacher! I hide the vegetables... by Rory Milhench - Profesor Nativo de Inglés - Barcelona

Rory Milhench

Profesor Nativo de Inglés

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Confessions of an English Teacher! I hide the vegetables...

Dear Student of English,

I thought it would be useful to share a few experiences from a teacher's point of view.

But I promise not to scare you with that dreaded word again.“GRAMMAR”. Even thinking the word can give you a chill, I know! It seems like some difficult, abstract thing that sits outside of the fun English you want to learn. In your head English is fun because it allows you to communicate, but grammar is difficult. It must be studied over and over. Grammar is like the vegetables your mother made you eat when you were young. It is necessary, but unpleasant.

To start with, I avoid using the word “grammar”. This is to prevent you developing a complex about it, but also to remind you that grammar is at the heart of all of the English you already know. You use grammar in every sentence you speak and in every sentence you write. So it must be approached softly. As a teacher I like to “hide the vegetables”. I will enable you to produce grammar without you even realising it, like when your mother hid the vegetables inside something more tasty at dinner time.

I enjoy asking students what they like to do in their free time, since many students in Spain have busy schedules. Perhaps they answer “I read books”, “I play computer games”, “I cook delicious food”. Without being aware of my goal, they have independently produced one of the most important tenses in English. In fact, the subject of this blog. The PRESENT SIMPLE.

 

The Present Simple (also known as the Simple Present) is the tense we use to show habits or repeated actions. For example:

 

I play tennis

I speak English

I study Geography

 

These are all actions that are repeated. The way I teach the present simple is to ask about a student’s daily routine.

This can be done with adults and children, since everybody at least drinks, eats, walks and sleeps during one day, so there is material for everyone.

Once students understand the basic idea, I like to demonstrate how it can be used in the negative by asking questions.

Do you speak French?

Often the student will answer with a short sentence; “No, I don’t”. I like to elicit a full sentence from them in response to your question: “I do not speak French”.

Asking questions is the staple of any English Teacher, because it encourages students to produce language independently. But it also allows me the Teacher to understand you the student better, because you will communicate their interests, hobbies and desires. The Present Simple is great for this because it is about regular patterns in our lives; I quickly learn more about you and am able to make your lesson more personal and meaningful.

Lastly, I like to demonstrate how to use the Present Simple in question form, this time encouraging my students to form questions themselves. Often this is challenging for students since they are more accustomed to being asked than doing the asking. I like to empower my students by allowing them to ask me questions and promising to answer them truthfully! Maybe your students will ask you “Do you speak Spanish”, “Do you read books”, “Do you brush your teeth”?!

Most students will thrive on this kind of freedom and will commit to the class even more.

Thanks for reading and happy learning!

Rory Milhench

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